Looking back...

2019-02-27 06:00
PHOTO: FileKhaba Mkhize was instrumental in the birth of Echo and was the paper's first black editor.

PHOTO: FileKhaba Mkhize was instrumental in the birth of Echo and was the paper's first black editor.

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FOR 40 years this June, the Echo flag has maintained it’s growth. Although the publication has passed hands, leadership and management, it still remains your paper of choice.

I think this is the one time as a journalist that I can be biased! I’ve been chatting to colleagues who’ve worked on Echo in the past and the one name that always pops up in our conversations is Khaba Mkhize, Echo’s first black editor. I thought it befitting that part of our birthday celebrations pays tribute to the man who was seen as the “father” of Echo.

Our older readers will know very well who I am talking about but for our new generation readers, Mkhize was a veteran journalist, former editor of Echo and ex-assistant editor of the Natal Witness, now The Witness, newspaper who died in July 2016. He was instrumental in the inception of Echo and became its editor in 1985. He suffered a stroke years before his death at the age of 70.

The stories he wrote told of the violence in Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands and he also produced many plays, one titled Pitymaritzburg­ which won the prestigious AA Vita Award. He wanted one thing — to promote peace in the City of Choice and to give people an opportunity to heal from all the harshness they endured during the 80s and 90s.

In doing this, he dedicated a page for poetry in the Echo every Thursday where readers sent in poems depicting their experiences during the struggle.

He also trained, groomed and schooled many young journalists who walked through his newsrooms and was an encyclopedia for anyone wanting to know what was happening on the political front.

This also meant that he was constantly looking over his shoulder, wore many disguises, even under which he wrote, and at one time changed his car 14 times in 18 months as death threats had become a norm for him!

There is so much more I learnt about Mkhize while compiling my research for this column but the one thing I must share with you is an extract from something is daughter, Nobuntu Mkhize, posted on Instagram a few weeks ago after somebody had sent her an article of her father’s column Khaba’s Khona which he wrote in 1980. It read:

“I just received this article just now and I cant hold my excitement! To think my dad never went to no white school to learn how to speak, write and comprehend the English Language, yet somehow, through self discipline and self teaching, he managed to master the language to a point that he became the first black editor of a white dominated newspaper...

So a friend of mine sends me this, telling me that her mom was cleaning their garage and boom she came across this article. Thanks to her mom’s habit of preserving newspapers and actually recording them by putting a date on them, a habit which my father was addicted to. If you had to see our garage at home, you’d swear that our garage is the “national South African garage of archives. At home, you never threw away a newspaper, unless you wanted to sleep outside that particular night. I remember those days, growing up, and I’d be sitting on the couch, and dad would walk pass, and I’d yell :“Agggg I’m so bored!” And dad, so nonchalantly, would respond and say: “Pick up a book or a newspaper, and you wont be bored!” .... Even though dad did write about real news and politics, now I know how he relaxed.

He didn’t have a psychologist.

He had a corner (or was it a Khona?) where he could blabber on about anything and everything. Way to go paps.. dad...”

Candyce Krishna

Maritzburg Echo Editor

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